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Government may face fresh strikes

The Government is facing fresh strikes by public sector workers because of continued resistance to controversial changes to their pensions, it has emerged.

Up to two million teachers, civil servants, council staff, NHS employees and other workers staged a walkout last November in protest at increased contributions and lower pensions.

The Government made a final offer at the end of last year and expressed optimism that the bitter dispute could be resolved, but unions remain opposed to the reforms.

Some union leaders have discussed dates for new strikes, with March 1 emerging as a possible day for another walkout by public sector workers, sources told the Press Association.

The National Union of Teachers (NUT), NASUWT, University and Colleges Union and Public and Commercial services union are among those most likely to take further industrial action.

Union executives will meet within the next two weeks to receive further feedback from their members and a new strike date could emerge then, with some activists expecting action in early March.

Strike ballots held last year are still active, so no further votes would be needed although unions will have to give seven days' notice of any more stoppages.

Some unions are currently consulting their members on whether to accept the Government's deal as the best that can be achieved through negotiation, but a number of large unions are said to be "standing firm".

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teachers union, said: "The heads of agreement document signed up to by four unions before Christmas is set to wreak massive injustice on the overwhelming majority of teachers. The NASUWT will be seeking to mitigate the worst aspects of the agreement by demanding that teachers do not bear an unfair burden of unjustified increased contributions, whilst employers see the level of their contributions reduced.

"The NASUWT will be insisting that the Government obeys the law by providing a detailed Equality Impact Statement and by exercising its duty to advance equality. The scandal is that none of these changes are about making the pension scheme viable, affordable or sustainable. These changes are part of the Government's privatisation scheme to make education more attractive to predatory business interests."


From Belfast Telegraph